Why Silence? It’s Weird (Part 1)

When lists are walls
And my heart is stone
When tasks are drowning joy
The time has come.
When love is lost
And thoughts are swords
When my tongue wounds
The time has come.
When mirror image is foreign
And tears are enemies
When hope is a memory
The time has come.
The time has come
To sit and be known
To stop and be loved.
The time has come,
Beloved,
Rest here and know:
You are loved.
–from my own prayer journal

Silence and solitude are the crux of where God’s transformative work has taken place in my own life. My journey into the contemplative way of spirituality has impressed on me the necessity of relearning what I thought it meant to pray in order to listen.

I was taught that praying was sitting down, folding my hands, closing my eyes and telling God what I thought needed to be done, especially when it came to the people on the prayer list. And this is a good way to teach prayer to children. We teach them to still their feet, hands, and eyes. We teach them to speak out on behalf of those in need. We teach them to close with the correct phrase and a simple “amen.” And this is good.

However, I am no longer a child and the training wheels I was given don’t seem to fit as well now. My heart longs for something more, something deeper, something mysterious and beyond me. So, I have learned from those who have walked this path before me to sit and be still and be quiet.

Thomas Merton said, “In silence God ceases to become an object and becomes an experience.”

Ruth Haley Barton said, “Silence … offers us the opportunity to give ourselves to one who loves us just the way we are and loves us too much to let us stay the way we are.”

In Matt 6:6 from The Message, Jesus tells his followers to pray in this way, “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

I have tried to glean wisdom from these and others to create a practice that looks something like the following:

  1. I sit on my back porch if the weather is nice, or in my office before my lunch break.
  2. For 15-20 minutes, I breathe deeply while letting my thoughts leave as they come.
  3. The first three minutes are spent bringing my body to the present moment by purposefully relaxing every muscle from my feet up to my face.
  4. The remaining time is spent using a breath prayer to keep bringing my heart and mind back in to focus on God.
  5. The chimes that are really a timer on my phone sound after 15 minutes, and I slowly bring myself back to present by yawning and stretching. I thank God for meeting me here and go on with my day.

While my hands are still, my eyes are often open so that the beauty surrounding me guides my awareness. There are no words spoken and no formula to follow. There is just being: moving my rocking chair back and forth, moving air in and out of my nose, moving my spirit beyond myself.

It seems important to say that most of the time, I am unaware of anything major happening during this time. I don’t hear God’s audible voice every day. I don’t have a breakthrough of spiritual knowledge. But still, I attempt to sit in this way every day—and have for almost 8 years. Why would someone do that? What happens when I sit for this purpose? And, is it something I am encouraging you to explore?

This is the first in a series of posts to address the current interest in the contemplative stream of spiritual formation. Perhaps you, like me, realize:

The time has come
To sit and be known
To stop and be loved.

The time has come,
Beloved,
Rest here and know:
You are loved.

 

Rhesa Higgins is a spiritual director and experienced retreat leader. She holds a B.S. from ACU in youth and family ministry and is a graduate of HeartPaths, a three-year program in spiritual formation and direction. Rhesa serves as the founding Director for eleven:28 ministries (www.eleven28ministries.org) in Dallas, Texas, a non-profit dedicated to supporting the spiritual vitality of ministers. Rhesa is also a partner with Hope Network. She is married to Chad and together they are raising their three kids. Rhesa loves good coffee, dark chocolate, baseball, theatre, and most any good book.

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Author:  Publish Date: March 28, 2018

3 Comments

  • Patty Genco says:

    Thank you for sharing this, looking forward to future posts.

  • Martin Torres Jr says:

    Hi Rhesa! Nice to meet you. And Thank You for sharing on this topic. It was such an encouraging read. I’ve been enjoying my quite times during my Day by Day devotions along with the Emotional healthy Spirituality book by Peter Scazzero. Looking forward to reading the Part 2 of this blog.

    Blessings

  • Karen Robertson says:

    Thank you! A powerful reminder to always return to our center.

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

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